Picking the right college backpack is an important choice. Of course, you want to look stylish, but you’re also going to be using the bag for at least a year and possibly beyond, depending on how well you get on with it. Therefore, it’s important to choose college backpacks that check all the right boxes. The best backpacks for college students are large enough to carry your new laptop, books, water bottle and other daily essentials. It should also rest comfortably on your shoulders throughout the day and be durable enough to last for several semesters.
If you’re not quite sure what you want or need in your bag, it’s definitely worth checking out our guide ensuring you pick the right backpack. Deciding between looks and function as well as comfort and capacity are all important factors that need to be considered before you commit your cash.
To help you decide, we put together a list of the best backpacks for college students. We have options from top brands like Topo Designs and Fjallraven as well as budget buys and lesser-known commuter options. Check out all 28 and decide which option is best for your college experience.
1. Herschel Supply Co. Pop Quiz Laptop Backpack
If you head to any college campus in the United States today, you’ll find a sea of Fjallraven and Herschel Supply Co. backpacks. You’ll also find several options from these companies on this list, for the simple reason that these companies make the best backpacks for college students, period. This option from Herschel is well-reviewed, large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, durable and on-trend. However, it’s also an unpretentious backpack, perfect as an everyday carryall for class.
2. Mancro Laptop Backpack
BEST BUDGET BUY
Surely 8,000+ people can’t be wrong? The Mancro Laptop Backpack has an impressive number of five-star reviews and sports a simple yet stylish design, which provides a versatility few other bags can achieve. There’s a wealth of pockets for comfortable storage of everything from your smartphone and laptop (up to 15.6″) to a bottle, an umbrella and even your lunch. The smart bag also sports an easy-to-carry handle on top and a padlock for security, plus a built-in USB port for easy charging on the go.
3. JanSport Right Pack College Backpacks
BEST CLASSIC STYLE
The JanSport Right Pack is the right choice for you if you are after a classic college backpack. It’s available in a range of colors and features one main compartment as well as a front accessory pocket. The bottom of the backpack is reinforced with suede leather for durability and style. Furthermore, the bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and there’s a top-mounted carry handle for alternative carrying options. Pretty much every student in America is familiar with JanSport bags, and you can never go wrong by picking out one that speaks to you. No matter the colorway, this is always one of the best backpacks for college students.
4. Fjallraven – Raven 28
While you can never go wrong with the Classic Fjallraven backpack, we like the Raven 28 model for college. Designed specifically for students, this backpack comes with a pocket for 15″ laptops, as well as extra compartments for textbooks, snacks and anything else you need during a long day on campus. This model doesn’t come in as many fun colors as other bags from Fjallraven, but it’s a durable and stylish laptop backpack that’s perfect for college students. And at a mid-range $110, it’s an affordable bag for most college students and is without a doubt the best Fjallraven backpack out right now.
5. lululemon City Adventurer Backpack
BEST FOR ATHLETIC TYPES
If you’re just as concerned with setting a personal record on your bench press as you are setting a personal record in class, this City Adventurer backpack from lululemon will be a great companion. Designed to be both an athletic bag and a college bag, you’re getting the best of both worlds without having to sacrifice either. With an exterior padded pocket, there’s room enough for a 15″ laptop, while an expandable pocket has enough room for all your sweaty gear. And with its minimalist design and range of colorways, it’ll look as good in the gym room as it does in the classroom. Just because it isn’t your standard gym bag, doesn’t mean it won’t work for workouts.
6. Everlane Modern Snap Backpack
This minimalistic beauty from Everlane pulls off that snap shut look you’ve always loved in style. Fit your Macbook, notebooks, pens and pencils alike comfortably in the snap’s interior while throwing your Nalgene right in the side exterior pockets. This is probably the epitome of a college backpack, too. We can already picture you throwing it on your dorm bed after a long week of classes before getting ready for a night out with your buds.
7. Topo Designs Light Pack
BEST COLOR OPTIONS
We had to include at least one more option from Topo Designs, which makes some of the best backpacks for college students. While we love their classic leather and canvas day pack, the $145 price tag is more than many broke college students can afford. For a more affordable option from this popular apparel company that costs less than $75, go with the brand’s popular Light Backpack. Like all the best college backpacks, this bag can fit your laptop and textbooks with ease. However, it also comes in retro 90s coloring that’s perfect for standing out on campus.
You should also check out the limited edition Madewell x Topo Designs backpack, which comes in stylish mint and coral colorways.
8. Vessel Signature 2.0 Lite Faux Leather Backpack
BEST FOR ORGANIZING
If Marie Kondo were to design a backpack, it would be the Vessel Signature 2.0 Lite Faux Leather Backpack. The lustrous black and blue minimalist exterior really doesn’t prepare you for the number of pockets the interior holds, which is a nice surprise. Having pockets for everything from pens, loose-leafs, laptops, sunglasses, gym clothes, and much more, the amount of stuff you can comfortably find a place for is almost incomprehensible. Also, when you’re traveling through the airport, feel free to give your back a break with mesh-padded backsides that snugly fit directly onto your carry-on’s telescoping handles.
9. The Friendly Swede Waterproof Backpack
BEST FOR WET CONDITIONS
If your college is located somewhere more prone to rain than shine, it’s worth investing in this waterproof backpack. It might not be the most stylish backpack on the list, but its minimalist look is still pretty cool. Plus, it will always keep your belongings dry. This backpack is available in either black or white and features a roll-top main compartment to ensure no raindrops find their way inside. The backpack also features three outer zip pockets that are waterproof and ideal for smartphones or other small essentials.
10. STATE Bags Kent Backpack
We’re definitely swooning at this handsome all-black backpack from STATE Bags. This bag is so popular that State has trouble keeping it in stock. From on-campus dwellers to on-time commuters, a smaller bag is ideal for the kind of guy that doesn’t really need to bring it all. Fit your keys and wallet in the front pouch while sliding your 13-inch laptop and a few notebooks in the larger zipped interiors. You’ll look great and your back will thank you for carrying less.
11. Timberland New Originals 32L Roll-Top Backpack
BEST FOR LONG WEEKEND TRIPS
Let’s be real, not every weekend trip calls for a whole carry-on or weekend bag. If you’re more the minimalist type when it comes from getting off campus for a holiday weekend, this large water-resistant Timberland backpack will hold four day’s worth of clothing, snacks, meds, water bottles and really any other travel necessity. We know your feet are covered in Tims all winter long anyway, so why not try the brand on your back this summer?
12. Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack
For students most concerned about saving the planet, the Fjallraven Recycled Kanken Backpack is made entirely from recycled water bottles. It’s also colored using a far less intensive dying process to further aid the environment. The bag itself sports a range of carrying options, including tote handles and straps, as well as two open side pockets and a rain flap for protection from the elements. Inside, there’s a large central storage space along with an info tag so your bag is easy to identify if you lose it.
13. Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack
With over 20 color combinations to choose from, the Herschel Little America Mid-Volume Backpack allows the wearer to express his or her personality through their backpack. These college backpacks also sport buckled top straps and front-facing pockets to add to the bags’ impressive rucksack style. On the front pocket, there’s a Herschel brand patch for a classy finish. The bag’s straps are padded for comfort, and the top pocket features a drawstring to ensure your belongings are always secure inside.
14. Mokuyobi Flyer Backpack
BEST STATEMENT BACKPACK
If you’re more the eclectic type, snag a bold-colored pack that’ll be sure to turn some heads. Though this one may look like it’s solely for aesthetic purposes, don’t be fooled. On the exterior, this pack features bottle holders and a suitcase handle for extra strength, while the interior has a laptop compartment and pockets for pens, wallets, and more. Though be warned, this backpack is made from nylon, so we can’t guarantee everything will stay dry during any sudden downpours when you have to get across campus.
15. Walfront Canvas Drawing Board Backpack
BEST FOR ART STUDENTS
If you’re an art student that’s looking for a stylish yet practical solution for carrying both your canvas and your gear to and from class, this canvas bag from Walfront is an elegant solution to your problem. The heavy canvas gives the whole bag a really slick and stylish appearance. And while looking good is great, it’s got to be functional too. Good news there, as the bag has plenty of exterior pocket storage to carry a smaller size laptop and any art supplies you may need for class.
16. UA Clear Backpack
BEST CLEAR BACKPACK
Bare it all in a clear pack that shows you really don’t give a crap if people know what you’re lugging around. Popularized in recent years at concerts and music festivals, clear backpacks are now necessary for many big events. Snag one in advance for any rain-checked music events you’re planning on attending again in 2021 when everything is *hopefully* back to normal. Until then, unapologetically show off that 14 cent Lisa Frank notebook you bought from Staples all semester long.
17. Everlane ReNew Transit Backpack
BEST FOR INTERNS
It’s a weird year for college students. Actually, it’s a weird year for everyone. But if you’re starting a new job or internship, you’ll want to make a good impression, and we’ve got the perfect bag for you. With a unique design and neutral charcoal color, Everlane’s ReNew Transit Backpack is a trendy, compact sack made from 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish. And get this, there’s a discreet internal zipper laptop sleeve to ensure your Macbook stays safe and sound. Whether you’re on the way to a full-time position or it’s just one of those days you happen to spill your entire coffee on a woman’s lap on the A train again, stay looking cool and confident in a backpack made to tackle whatever kind of day you’re having.
18. Mission Workshop Rhake Backpack
BEST FOR THE LONG HAUL
While it’s one of the more expensive backpacks on this list, Mission Workshop’s Rhake backpack is a bag that’s a worthy investment for the long-haul. Built from highly-durable Cordura fabric, the bag is 100% weatherproof and built to last. But, should it happen to fall apart, Mission will replace the entire bag and ship it back to you completely free of charge. With its 22L capacity, you’ll have enough room for everything you can think of, including taking it as an overnight bag when you travel. Its padded laptop sleeve can be accessed on the side if you’re really in a hurry.
19. MCM Stark 40 Viestos Backpack
Carry everything you need in a designer bag that’ll get the campus talking. While MCM’s Stark 40 Viestos Backpack resembles pebbled leather on the outside, it’s actually draped in coated canvas, giving it an ultramodern look and feel. Dual zip compartments help organize and separate your books from your laptop. When the week’s over, use it as a charming weekend pack for visiting mom and dad. They’ll ask why the hell you chose to splurge on a backpack of all things, but, it’s fashion. You gotta do what you gotta do to look good.
20. Patagonia Black Hole Backpack
Patagonia has been long known for its commitment to durable, high-quality and environmentally-friendly bags, and that tradition is alive and well in the Black Hole Backpack. At 25L, it’s got a massive amount of storage, which means you’ll be able to toss anything and everything you can think of in there without worry. But it’s got to be able to carry the essential supplies for class, which it does with ease. A padded 15″ laptop sleeve allows for clear division inside the bag so things don’t get too jumbled around. Plus, the 100% recycled polyester ripstop has been coated with a TPU laminate that will hold up well in the elements.
21. L.L.Bean Continental Rucksack
BEST FOR WEEKEND HIKERS
Anyone who’s tried anything from L.L.Bean knows that every product they make is head-to-toe nature-ready. If you plan on making sure your weekend getaways involve totally disconnecting, while still making sure you can lug a laptop around, this is the college backpack you’ll want to have. Its large main compartment has room enough for snacks, notebooks and your after-class gym garb while its side water bottle pockets can keep you well-hydrated on the trail. Though it’s sold in a couple stellar colors, we love the classic khaki pictured below.
22. MZ Wallace Quilted Metro Backpack
BEST FOR MINIMALISTS
Looking to strip it all down and only carry what you absolutely need? Then you’ll want a bag that won’t get in your way or overload you with needless amounts of storage. MZ Wallace’s quilted Metro college backpack has just the right amount of pockets (two in front and one main storage compartment with room for a laptop) for you to load it up and roll out. Super lightweight, it’s made for those who are constantly on the go. Plus its quilted exterior makes a bold statement that will make it fun — even when class might not be.
23. Timbuk2 Tech Roll Top Backpack
Drawing from classic military-style bags, this backpack from Timbuk2 is a modern update on a vintage favorite. The rolltop closure evokes that old-school style bag while incorporating modern features like a water-resistant outer and weatherproof bottom boot. Its all-black design is great for those that aren’t fussy about color. And, as with all college backpacks, there are plenty of pockets for storing all your various items, while also having a padded laptop sleeve.
24. Herschel Dawson
MOST ORGANIZED HERSCHEL
What makes the Dawson backpack different from other Herschel bags is that the front of the bag features two separate pockets instead of one large front compartment, so you’ll be able to throw your earbuds and keys in one pocket and your pens in the other. The 20.5L main compartment features a drawstring closure with a foam lining for added protection. The backpack comes in a variety of different color combinations, from classic black and tan to a vibrant Monaco blue.
25. Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack
You know the blue tarp material that they use to cover pools in the winter or throw over construction sites during rainstorms? Its full name is tarpaulin, and the water-resistant material is now used to make stylish and durable backpacks. If you want something that will withstand the elements, this Rogue Laptop Backpack is the golden ticket. The top-loading pack includes a roomy main compartment, so nothing will get in the way of squeezing a few extra items in there. Plus, it’s available in four different colors, so you can find the shade that fits you best.
26. The North Face Borealis Backpack
BEST FOR BACK PROBLEMS
Hauling around a heavy bag usually takes a nasty toll on your back, especially if you do it every day. That’s why we love this spacious option from North Face. This nylon and polyester backpack features adjustable shoulder straps that boast an extra layer of foam. Plus, the bag has a padded back panel with a spine channel that’s even been endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. If you pick this one up, your back will thank us later.
27. JanSport Big Campus Backpack
BEST LARGE JANSPORT
If you’re the type of person who likes to schedule everything on the same day, then you need a bag that can handle the textbook stack for back-to-back classes. That’s where this Big Campus Backpack from Jansport swoops in. Measuring out to a roomy 17.5″ x 13″ x 10″, this bag has two main compartments with plenty of space for all your goods. Plus, it even has a few extra zipper pockets, and it comes in the classic Jansport style. Not to mention, the ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps help your back handle the heavy school load.
28. Pendleton Wool Accented Backpack
Urban Outfitters is the epicenter of all things cool and in-the-now, so it’s no surprise that they supply this trendy bag from Pendleton. The tan canvas backpack should hold up well and is plenty sturdy enough to hold your books and laptop. Furthermore, the front-zip pocket features a blue woven design so you can bring those laid back desert vibes to campus.